seeks to highlight several of the most interesting achievements
of Mesopotamian prehistory. It is a composite picture in more
ways than one. The features here illustrated could not be found
together in any single level, but each is authentic for a particular
occupation; and all date from an age prior to the beginning
of history, that is, from before 3000BC.
Gawra, however, the prehistoric period is represented by as
many as 20 individual levels, and a similar time span is required
by the evidence from other sites.
much ground to be covered, it is necessary to compress into
a single composition here. Some of the pottery, for instance
belongs to Gawra XX; the arched doorway, on the other hand,
is a product of Gawra VIII.
pottery of prehistory Gawra falls into two main groups; the
earlier of these bears the name of Halaf, and the later of El
Obeid, a relative of the earliest pottery from the Elamaite
capital at Susa. The Halaf pottery is celebrated for its high
firing, its glossy polish, and especially for its extraordinarily
intricate decoration in more than one colour. The El Obeid pottery
from Gawra is often decorated with naturalistic designs - plants,
birds, animals, and even landscape composition.
by then had discovered the kiln, which enabled him to control
his temperatures. The painter ground his materials on stone
palettes and used them with infinite skill and patience. The
stonecutter, too, left us fine examples of his work, ranging
from weapons to engraved stamp seals.
his masterpieces, however, can match his best efforts in translucent
obsidian, such as the spouted bowl depicted here beside the
pottery. When it is borne in mind that this volcanic glass cracks
rather easily under pressure, that whole bowl had to be ground,
spout and all, out of a single core, and that many a piece must
have been nursed along to the last stage only to collapse under
the finishing touches.
used straight razor handles made of slate and furnished with
obsidian blades which were attached to the holder with bitumen.
pipes were made of bone. They occur as early as Gawra XII. One
of the best preserved specimens was found in the grave of a
young boy, the right hand still clutching the instrument.
produced the first known example of a true arch, made of sun-baked
bricks. This level contained another acropolis different in
details and general design from that of Gawra XIII, but no less
architectural features are sufficiently distinctive to suggest
that a change in population had taken place after Gawra XIII.
But who these newcomers were, and who their predecessors may
have been, will probably never be known. It is true of the prehistoric
peoples more than of any other, that only by their works shall
they be known.
- From Everyday Life in Ancient Tines - National Geographic